Kenney Jones on Good Boys... When They're Asleep

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Rock 'n' roller's singular attack on stealth taxes
by Judith Woods
The Daily Telegraph, London, Nov 23, 2002 

BRITAIN'S most improbable protest singer is fiddling with his complicated sound system, so that I can hear his controversial anti- Gordon Brown anthem.

When Kenney Jones finally hits the play button the volume is shockingly - painfully - loud. We may be in a polo club in leafiest Surrey, but this is rock 'n' roll.

As my sternum jolts uncomfortably with every beat, Jones, former drummer with the Small Faces and The Who, nods along with a faraway smile of quiet satisfaction.

"Na na na na Mr Brown, you're robbing me / You're detached emotionally / Na na na It's plain to see / Mr Brown you're robbing me."

It's certainly a catchy tune, but it's the lyrics that are proving to be incendiary. By sticking his head above the political parapet on the issue of tax, Jones has been both feted and castigated in equal measure.

Not only has he been vilified as a Right-wing traitor to the Leftist traditions of rock, but he has stirred up something of a parliamentary hornets' nest.

For Jones has dared to wade in where the Tories have been fearing to tread; namely, on the delicate minefield of stealth taxation. As the parties squabble over the high moral ground on public services, the 53-year-old father of six has emerged to fight the corner of the overstretched, overtaxed middle classes. "The Government isn't listening to the people and I felt it was time to speak up," says Jones.

"I just wanted to make the point that this Government gives with one hand and takes with the other. Every Budget is the same; it sounds as though Gordon Brown is reducing the burden but, if you look closer, you discover you're actually worse off."

A stocky man, dressed in scruffy jeans and a T-shirt, a gold- plated Ebel watch on his wrist, Jones - who owns and runs Hurtwood Park Polo Club, near Ewhurst - is instantly recognisable from pictures taken decades ago.

The youthful face appears remarkably unravaged by showbiz excess, the hair is still cut in a familiar, if shorter, hedgehoggy mullet.

Billed as "the quiet one" in most of the bands with which he played, Jones consistently shied away - once off-stage - from the limelight. His new song was written from the heart, he insists, not as an attention-seeking political statement.

But this, perhaps, is the very reason for its potency. The issue of taxation may have slipped down the Opposition agenda but for voters such as him, being hammered at every turn, it remains a burning issue.

"I've always voted Conservative, but I'm not politically minded and I just believe in fairness," he says. "I didn't set out to write a protest song."

He repeats this phrase so often (six times in all, plus two "Look, this is just a bloody good song that happens to be about tax"), I get a sense that Jones is both nonplussed and rather alarmed by the furore.

It was a report in The Daily Telegraph about the German pop hit, Der Steuersong (The Tax Song), which satirises Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's tax policies, that prompted Jones and his band to publicise their song.

The band, which features Robert Hart, a former member of Bad Company, Rick Wills, the former Foreigner bassist, and Gary Grainger, guitarist and songwriter, is as yet unnamed. Mr Brown was intended for their album, due to be recorded next year, but it clearly cries out to be released as a single, even though it could well fall foul of BBC censors for its "definite political overtones".

"I wrote the song during the fuel protests because every time I fill up at the petrol station I feel like I'm being ripped off," says Jones.

"People who live in the country are being penalised for their fuel consumption, but we have no choice: the shops aren't at the corner, and you have to get your children to school, which is miles away."

Jones no longer owns the Flash Harry Ferrari or the "made-it" Bentley he drove in the 1970s. He negotiates the winding country lanes in a Range Rover and his wife, Jayne, 43, ferries the children to both state and independent schools in a Chrysler Voyager. "I'm not an extravagant man, and I'm not rolling in cash, which might sound a bit rich when I'm sitting here in my polo club, but it's the truth," he says.

"I've earned my money with hard work and rock 'n' roll. But back in those days bands got ripped off by all kinds of people. It wasn't like today's instant millionaires in pre-fabricated pop groups."

He and his family live in a 14th-century five-bedroom cottage. The nearby polo club is housed in a renovated 15th-century barn, set in 250 acres.

Regular players include the Prince of Wales, Princes William and Harry and Jodie Kidd, the model turned polo player.

Jones has set up The Small Faces charitable trust in aid of children, providing funds for hospital wards and other causes.

"I've seen life from both sides. I grew up in the East End of London, where my father was a lorry driver and my mother worked in a glass factory," he says.

"It was a very modest upbringing and the only thing I was spoiled with was love and affection.

"Then when I was 15 or 16 my band had a hit record and suddenly I saw how the other half lived."

Right now, Jones's main aim is to impress on the Government how Middle England lives - groaning beneath a growing tax burden.

It seems likely that his single will be released early next year, and it will be fascinating to see how it fares. Jones, meanwhile, is prepared for a further backlash.

"I not sure Gordon Brown will think much of the song," he says. "He'll probably set the Inland Revenue on to me. But he can if he wants, I can assure him that all my tax returns are in order."



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